Whether you’re considering being a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or in the thick of your job now, you might be curious about the average speech-language pathologist salary.
What could you really be earning, and what factors come into play? Learn more about what you should know regarding speech-language pathologist salary.
Average speech-language pathologist salary
Being a speech-language pathologist can be a good job that’s steady and rewarding. The pay can vary, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay as of May 2018 for speech-language pathologists was $77,510 per year or $37.26 per hour.
Median SLP Salary
District of Columbia
The top three metropolitan areas that offer the highest pay include:
Median SLP Salary
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
Of course, you’d want to consider cost of living as well. A $100k salary doesn’t go that far in the Bay Area of Northern California in cities like San Francisco. But it could be a very nice salary in Michigan, for example.
Your salary will also depend on what kind of job you get and where you work, as well as years of experience. For example, the speech-language pathologist starting salary may be on the lower end.
Speech-language pathologists who work in schools tend to make closer to the average speech-language pathologist salary, whereas those in nursing facilities or management make closer to the six-figure mark.
BLS data shows positive growth for this occupation as well, stating that it’s expected to grow 18% from 2016 to 2026. This surpasses the average of most professions.
When it comes to employment, the top five states with the highest employment for speech-language pathologists include:
- New York
So, the average speech-language pathologist salary will vary depending on location and where you work, such as a school or nursing home. But it’s a safe bet to assume you’ll make around $70k up to six figures.
Average speech-language pathologist student debt
Like many students, speech-language pathologists may have to take on student loan debt to obtain their degree. According to data from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 27% of survey respondents from its 2018 School Surveys said they had unpaid debt. The average student loan debt owed by speech-language pathologists was $42,934.
This number is similar to what CollegeCalc states is the average for two-year speech-language pathology programs at $43,644. It also says that the average out-of-state cost for a four-year degree in speech-language pathology is $144,260.
The type of school, such as public versus private, can make a big difference in how much you pay. For example, tuition at private school Loyola University Maryland for both in-state and out-of-state tuition is $62,960. On the other hand, public school Nevada State College — a public school — costs $15,647 for in-state tuition.
So, the cost and average student loan debt for speech-language pathologists can vary widely depending on public versus private school; in-state versus out-of-state tuition; and whether you attend a two-year, four-year or graduate program.
Is the salary worth the student debt?
As you’ve seen above, both the average salary and average student loan debt for speech-language pathologists can vary. Let’s assume the average salary from the BLS data of $77,510 and the average student loan debt from ASHA of $42,934.
In this case, the SLP salary is just shy of being double the amount of student loan debt. Under these circumstances, it could be worth the student loan debt.
However, if you end up going to a private school or getting an advanced degree, your student loan debt could cross the six-figure mark easily. In some cases, the situation could be reversed where you’re taking on double the amount of debt compared to your salary.
Typically, that might not be worth it. But if that amount of student loan debt gets you an advanced degree and you really love your job, this could make sense. Being a speech-language pathologist can be a rewarding job with measurable results. So if you cherish your work, taking on this debt might make more sense.
If you’re going into the field more for job stability and growth — per the BLS figures — and less so for passion, opting for a more affordable school is likely the better option.
It will also make a difference whether you opt for federal or private student loans. If you take out federal student loans, you have a chance at student loan forgiveness. If you choose private student loans, you don’t have that option.
Student loan repayment options for speech-language pathologists
The student loan repayment options you’ll have as a speech-language pathologist will vary depending on the type of loans you have. If you’ve got private student loans, you’ll want to discuss what you can do with your lender, as each lender may have different options.
For borrowers with federal student loans, the good news is you have a lot of options. Typically, you’ll be on the Standard Repayment Plan, which comes with a 10-year repayment term. Borrowers are automatically enrolled in this program if they don’t choose another repayment plan.
If you’re struggling to manage your student loan payments with your SLP salary, you can choose an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. There are four options to consider, each of which puts a limit on the amount you’ll pay each month. All four IDR options equate to paying 10% to 20% of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years, based on the plan.
This makes the payments more affordable. But more than that, if you end up having a balance after the repayment period is finished, it will be forgiven. One thing to be aware of, though, is that you’ll be expected to pay taxes on the forgiven amount given the current tax rules. So stashing some money aside for that is best if you’re pursuing student loan forgiveness under this program.
PSLF for speech-language pathologists
For speech-language pathologists looking to work in schools or at nonprofits, you have another option for student loan forgiveness under Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This program offers student loan forgiveness after 10 years of public service and 120 payments. Unlike IDR, you don’t have to pay taxes on the forgiven balance.
Based on our data, we’ve seen speech-language pathologists with up to $150,000 in student loan debt and an average salary of around $50,000. Given this scenario, our calculations show that the value of PSLF is close to $30,000, whereas the value of the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plans on income-driven repayment is close to $90,000 in today’s dollars.
In other words, the difference is $60,000. But that means you must work for 10 years at a nonprofit, which equals $6,000 per year. Given tax adjustments and taking salary into account, the value of PSLF is roughly $8,000 per year.
Of course, you don’t want to stay in a job just for student loan forgiveness. A wise thing to do may be to stick to an income-driven repayment plan, and if you qualify for PSLF after 10 years, you can apply. But if not, you can continue on IDR and opt for student loan forgiveness that way if you have a big enough balance.
Another option to save money is to slash your interest rate through student loan refinancing. Just be aware that you give up your federal protections like student loan forgiveness when you refinance. So make sure your job is steady and that it makes sense in the long run.